Delaware River deepening: 30 years and 16 million cubic yards of sand, muck and rock later

Steve Castillo reclined in a vinyl seat in the cramped cockpit of the New York, a 3,400-horsepower monster dredge, manipulating controls that extended the vessel’s mighty excavator arm deep into the dark waters of the Delaware River.

He glanced at a monitor depicting the scene 45 feet below the surface, where the excavator’s giant bucket gouged bedrock on a recent morning, deepening the river channel to accommodate a modern fleet of larger cargo ships. Castillo, who is from West Palm Beach, Fla., was fortified with a case of bottled water, a cooler full of snacks, and a radio that he joked seemed only to receive stations playing holiday music. He was settled in for the long haul.

The same could be said for the Delaware River deepening project, which officials say will finally be finished next year — nearly three decades after it was first approved, and two years behind schedule.

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